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My first pastoral appointment was the Marissa and Zion United Methodist Charge in St. Clair County, Illinois, about forty miles southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. Zion had only three members and no electricity or running water. In past decades light had been provided in the sanctuary by kerosene, reflective lamps like this one placed by each window, the way sanctuaries for centuries received their light in Europe and America. [NOTE: LIZ HOLDS UP OUR KEROSENCE, REFLECTIVE LAMP FROM THE ZION UNITED METHODIST CHURCH BEFORE THE CONGREGATION AS I TELL THE FOLLOWING STORY.]

“Several centuries ago in a mountain village in Europe, a wealthy nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to His townspeople. He made a good decision. He decided to build them a church. No one was permitted to see the plans or the inside of the Church until it was finished. At its grand opening, the people gathered and marveled at the beauty of the new church. Everything had been thought of and included. It was a masterpiece.

But then someone said, ‘Wait a minute! Where are the lamps? It is really quite dark in here. How will the church be lighted?’ The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls, and then he gave each family a lamp, which they were to bring with them each time the came to worship.

“‘Each time you are here,’ the nobleman said, ‘the place where you are seated will be lighted. Each time you are not here, that place will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to Church, some part of God’s house will be dark.’” [SOURCE: James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not to Be True, (Nashville: Dimension, 1994), 117-8.] Have you faithful kept your sacred vow to Almighty God to be “Loyal to the United Methodist Church by supporting it with your faithful presence? “Whenever you fail to come to Church, some part of God’s house is dark.”